Here Am I, Send Me!

Isaiah 6:8-9 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” And he said, “Go, and say to this people..”

God is looking to and fro across the earth for people he can use to accomplish specific assignments in the building of his kingdom. Before Isaiah became a prominent prophetic voice to Israel, he firstly was an everyday believer in God who made himself available. Availability is the first prerequisite for being used mightily by God. Isaiah 1:19 says, “If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land“. To answer God’s call on your life, you must be first willing and secondly obedient. Not only did God call Isaiah but he counselled him in what to say. Too often we are attempting to come up with something inspirational that will connect with people, rather than simply sharing out of the well of what God has already revealed to us. If you want God to call you and use you mightily, first examine your heart and ask, “Am I available? Am I willing? Am I going to obey what he’s asked me to do? Selah!

Less Fashion, More Fire!

kneeling_in_prayer“In the last days.. People will have the appearance of godliness, but deny its power.” (2 Tim 3)

I love fashion but fashion doesn’t save someone from hell. It seems like some preachers are more concerned for how they looked than how their sermon was cooked. Leonard Ravenhill once said,

No man is greater than his prayer life. The pastor who is not praying is playing; the people who are not praying are straying. We have many organisers, but few agonizers; many players and payers, few prayers; many singers, few clingers; lots of pastors; few wrestlers; many fears, few tears; much fashion, little passion; many interferers, few intercessors; many writers, but few fighters. Failing here, we fail everywhere.

Simplify to Clarify!

Woman Shouting with BullhornIt’s been said that an academic takes something simple and makes it complex but a communicator takes something complex and makes it simple. There is way too much complexity in the world. Most of us are overwhelmed by information and more information leads to more complexity. Getting your message across to people requires you to cut through the complexity by keeping things simple and concise. The more detail, the less clear. Detail is ok for back of house but not for front of house, where people are going to see it. Jesus was a master communicator who took complex spiritual realities and tied them to everyday experiences and activities. Thus, 2000 years later, we are benefitting from the clarity Jesus lived and ministered with. Your message is too important to be unclear about it. Very few people can pull off clever and keep their message clear. Bother less about being clever and focus more on being clear. Your audience will appreciate you for it.

Keys to Communication!

IMG_1240I recently posted on Communication Carries Anointing and emphasised the importance of developing communication skills, both of a conversational and corporate nature. Here are some further tips to take your communication to the next level.

1 Big Idea! All good communication theory emphasises the centrality of 1 big idea. No matter what you are reading or who you are listening to, ask yourself 2 questions, “What is the writer/speaker talking about?” AND “What is the writer/speaker saying about what they are talking about?” In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul is talking about “Love” but in context of 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 he’s saying that love should be the motivation for why we do what we do, especially in the arena of spiritual gifts. Listen and look for the 1 big idea. A great read on this is “Biblical Preaching” by Haddon Robinson.

Clarity trumps clever! A lot of us want to be clever but very few of us can pull it off. However, clarity will trump clever every time. Stop trying to be clever and work hard on making your ideas as concrete and clear as possible and people will connect with them more. Confusion in the pulpit will lead to confusion in the pew. Putting your ideas to paper helps clarify them. A great resource for this is a book titled “Make it Stick” by Chip and Dan Heath (I think).

Anointing doesn’t make up for lack of discipline! Practice, Practice, Practice. Every Friday morning for 2 years I practiced my weekend sermon in an empty auditorium with my parents listening and critiquing my content and presentation.

Tell lots of Stories! Everyone loves a good story. A good story will communicate your principle for you. Learn to tell stories well by finding them in your everyday life and start sharing them with anyone who will listen. The more you tell, the better you’ll get.

Listen to Good Communicators! There are a plethora of opportunities to listen to great communicators. Don’t just listen to be entertained but go behind their communication and listen for how they approached their subject. TED and iTunes is a good place to start. Check out Corey Turner Ministries (shameless plug 🙂

Develop Conversational Intelligence! Read Conversational Intelligence by Judith Glaser and put the principles into action.

Read and Listen! The more you read the more you’ll deposit into your mind a dictionary of words that you can pull out as you need them. Listening improves speaking. Ask good questions and then listen for the response. Log the response away in your heart and act on it at your next opportunity.

Structure your Outline! Don’t outline your notes into paragraphs but develop structure. Write your point and then explain your point, illustrate your point and apply your point. Transition to the next point and repeat the process.

Pray, Pray and Pray Some More! Our words are fruitless without the Holy Spirit. Ask for fresh fire and flow with the leading of the Spirit as you speak.

Communication Carries Anointing!

IMG_1240Your communication carries your anointing. Every believer is anointed but not every believer can carry their anointing through their communication. (God)

This is a really important insight. John Maxwell would articulate the insight above with the words, ‘Everyone communicates, few connect’. I’ve observed many anointed people over my lifetime but what separates those who hit the bullseye of people’s hearts and those who don’t is their ability to communicate what that anointing is. Your communication carries your anointing into people’s hearts. You maybe greatly anointed but if you are unable to articulate to others in an effective way, your anointing is inhibited. The anointing is the person and power of the Holy Spirit on you and in you for the purpose to which he has called and gifted you. The anointing is linked to your calling, gifting and purpose. Develop your capacity to communicate cause it will either help or hinder the potential of your anointing to minister to people’s lives effectively.

Repetition is the Mother of Skill!

Tipping+Point+Book+Malcolm+Gladwell+LatestMalcolm Gladwell has recently popularised the 10,000 hour rule in his landmark work, “The Tipping Point”. The 10,000 hour rule is the idea that to become world-class in any activity or pursuit requires a total time commitment of 10,000 hours. Be it in golf, public speaking or playing guitar, the 10,000 hour rule is fairly consistent right across the board of professionals and world-class contributors in their chosen field. You may not desire to be world-class in any activity you are engaged in but the principle of focus and repetition can’t be underestimated if you desire to become more effective. Unfortunately, too many of us are lazy and possess a, “I can’t be bothered” outlook on life that is very selfish and fails to steward the gifts God has blessed us with. I don’t always want to go the 2nd mile but I’m learning it reaps fruitful dividends if I’m willing to put the work in. Maybe its time to stop making excuses and start logging the hours up. You’ll wake up one day and be glad you did.

Do You Struggle With Sin?

Does anyone out there still struggle with sin?

We don’t like to see our human brokenness through the lens of sin but it is apart of our fallen humanity and it’s helpful to clarify what sin is, if we’re going to overcome it. Sin (hamartia) is defined as missing the mark or more specifically, to fail to live according to God’s intention and design. Because we have failed to live according to God’s original intention and design we are easily misled by the environment around us as well as our own hearts. We are also weakened by our flesh that delights in compromise and we actively resist the wisdom and truth that alone can set us free. In short, we can’t save ourselves, we need Jesus!

Our rebellion against God has caused a spiritual canyon between us and God that only God’s Son is able to remedy. As a result, apart from Christ, our lives epitomize the reflection of a broken mirror, that needs God’s Spirit, truth and community to heal.

There are 2 basic marks of sinfulness that every human has to grapple with:

  1. Immaturity – Demonstrated by a failure to take responsibility for your actions or situation in life and characterized by impulsive behaviour based upon how one feels.
  2. Insecurity – Underlying insecurity is FEAR. Fear of not being valuable or significant in your own eyes or the eyes of the world around you. Insecurity causes oneself to compare themselves to others and it results in coveting and jealousy of what someone else has.
None of us are born into this world fully mature or completely secure, be it physically, emotionally or spiritually. We have to experience a process of growth in all aspects of our humanity. Unfortunately, you can be fully mature physically and yet be immature spiritually and emotionally, if you haven’t responded to God’s work in your life. Maturity and security are byproducts of a healthy relationship with God, one’s self and others.
When we find that we miss the mark (and all of us do in some way and often), it’s not going to help to simply give up on yourself or on life but God gives us the grace and power to get up again and grow closer to the mark of maturity and security in Christ. All of us have missed the mark and fallen short of God’s intention and design for us but nothing in our past, present or future is a good enough excuse to give up on God’s love, grace and power to help us grow into the people he’s called us to be.
Grace!

The Place of Political Incorrectness!

I’m very amused by the incredible lengths we go to, to avoid controversy and conflict in the name of cultural approval. Australia is rampant with it. Especially the Christian Church.

It seems like criticism follows the individual who goes too far (in some people’s minds) but never follows the individual who isn’t prepared to go further than their thoughts. It’s far easier to hide in the shadows, then stand on a dock and give a reason for the hope that you have.

When it comes to the office of the sacred desk, there is no place for political correctness. Line up John the Baptist, the Apostle Paul and Jesus Christ against the majority of us preachers and we fall far behind their commitment to speaking the truth in love. Keep in mind, all three were killed by their enemies. There’s a price to pay for speaking the truth, even in love.

I’m not advocating arrogant rants or angry outbursts or being offensive for the sake of it (although a good shout in the pulpit, every now and then doesn’t hurt), I’m calling for a commitment to speaking and living God’s truth with Christ-like compassion, love, wisdom AND boldness.

Any preacher worth their salt will eventually have a long line of people wanting to offer their opinion on what they could do better or do away with.

Why? Cause the cross is folly to those who are perishing and Christ continues to be a stumbling block of offense for many people. When a preacher is committed to letting the biblical text speak for itself and systematically working through the bible, at some point, it’s going to hit a raw nerve. Preacher, rather than shying away from it, run to it and embrace it. It’s your job to herald such a gospel.

I pray for God’s grace, wisdom and boldness to mark gospel preachers everywhere to declare the full counsel of God’s Word without fear or favor, and to the end of God’s glory and the salvation of people’s souls, let the pulpit be a place of political incorrectness.

Grace! (Matt 13:57; Rom 9:33; Gal 5:11; 1 Peter 2:8)

God’s Goal isn’t your Happiness!

I recently did a video interview with Dr Allan Meyer (CEO Careforce Life Keys) and I asked him a question about some of the critical issues facing the western church at the present time. In his excellent response, he reflected on the current focus of many Christians and much preaching being the goal of an individuals personal happiness, rather than following Jesus Christ.

As I have reflected on this many times in my own preaching ministry, I think about Jesus’ words in John 10:10 “The devil comes to steal, kill and destroy but I have come that you may have life and have it in all of its’ fulness.” Unfortunately, some of us have wrongly mis-interpreted this verse through our western context and concluded that God’s goal for us is our happiness, which surely must mean, health, wealth and prosperity… Ah, NOT!

As I read the Scriptures, I don’t find the emphasis of my personal comfort being consistent with the biblical account of Jesus’ life or the Apostle Paul’s life or any of the other apostle’s life, for that matter, as is recorded in the New Testament. Money, success and well-being are all gifts from God and should be stewarded accordingly but God’s goal for me isn’t the obtaining of these things, alone. Me becoming more and more like him is his goal and this can be accomplished through a variety of circumstances and dare I say it, is often accomplished rather well through suffering.

The joy of the Lord is my strength but God’s joy is available whatever I am facing or going through, not just when things are going my way. As preachers, our goal should be to be faithful to the text and expose what the text is simply declaring in the most compelling way possible, not to proselytize people to a mirage of false hope.  As pastors, our goal should be to lead people into Christ-likeness and a biblically based worldview that equips them to grow in spiritual maturity and gospel grace, not to encourage growth in spiritual immaturity.

Churches that promise happiness and bliss to their congregation alone, if they follow Jesus and perform for him are setting people up for massive disillusionment. Following Jesus in the real world does fill me with joy but sometimes I do face circumstances that are quite the opposite of happy. When a close family member of mine attempted suicide in 2001, I wasn’t happy. When I didn’t get the outcome I was hoping for as a budding athlete, I didn’t feel warm, happy fuzzies. When I get criticized and ostracized by others for my faith in Jesus and commitment to my calling, I don’t necessarily feel happy but my joy in Christ remains intact.

What’s your goal in life? If happiness is your goal, then you will live a misdirected and self-pre-occupied life but if God’s goal of Christ-likeness and knowing him is your goal then you will live life on purpose. Refuse to settle for anything less.

Grace! (Video Interview will be uploaded very soon)

The Call of Preaching

Preaching is a calling and it’s so important to the role of the Church in the world but some people don’t appreciate its relevance to contemporary society.

We’re living in a culture of disillusionment saturated by secularization, post-modernism, paganism, idolatry and individualism. In the midst of all of this, there is no substitute for the local church. What makes the church, the church is connected to mans real need.

Man’s real need isn’t sickness, due to being a victim of circumstances. Man’s real need is to be reconciled to God because of our rebellion (Romans 4:11-18). All brokenness in our lives is a symptom of man’s rebellion in some form or another. Man’s rebellion has caused ignorance and death and yet the church has been given the cure. The church is a specialist body of people not called to reproduce the work of other agencies but to preach the GOSPEL.

Every person on the planet needs an encounter with God’s grace and truth. The Gospel message proclaimed and the Gospel message practiced works because man’s rebellion hasn’t changed. We are all in need of a saviour and how will we respond to the call of the Gospel if someone doesn’t preach to us and practice grace and truth before us.

Preaching is central to Christian worship and where it has become a secondary priority, the church has suffered. Preaching is a calling, not a passing fad of a bygone era. Preaching is being able to articulate the paradox of the human soul and give insight into God’s ideas to the mysteries of life. While the presentation is important, the real substance is found in the value of the insight being shared. Preaching takes the words of Scripture and brings them to life so people’s hearts can be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit in the word of God.

Insight!